HOA demands strong action against Pak-based terror groups

Strong action against terror groups including Pakistan-based LeT and JeM involved in high level of violence in the region was demanded by the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference here today with India and Afghanistan launching a stinging attack on a virtually isolated Islamabad for sponsoring and supporting terrorism.

Combating terrorism was at the “core” of discussions at the annual HoA conference, which is meant to focus on efforts to reconstruct and stablise war-torn Afghanistan, but it could not firm up an Afghanistan-initiated proposal to set up a regional framework to counter the menace as many countries had not given their inputs.

Attended by some 40 countries, the two-day conference concluded with a strong declaration calling for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism as well as dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in region as also disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terror networks.

Stopping short of directly naming Pakistan in his speech at the meet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “resolute action” was needed not just against forces of terrorism, but also against “those who support, shelter, train and finance them”, asserting that terrorism and externally induced instability pose the gravest threat to Afghanistan’s peace, stability and prosperity.

Modi also asked the international community to “demonstrate strong collective will to defeat terror networks that cause bloodshed and spread fear” as “silence and inaction” against terrorism in Afghanistan and in the region “will only embolden terrorists and their masters.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani directly blamed Pakistan for “launching an undeclared war” against his country and demanded an Asian or international regime to verify Pak- sponsor terror operations.

Snubbing Pakistan, he said the USD 500 million pledged by it for reconstruction of Afghanistan could be used by Islamabad to check extremism.

“This fund Mr Aziz could very well be used to contain extremists because without peace any amount of assistance will not meet the needs of our people,” he said at the meet where Pakistan Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz was among those present.

Time has come for concrete action against terror infrastructure and those support it, Ghani asserted and quoted a top Taliban commander saying unless terror sanctuaries were allowed in Pakistan, the outfit will not last even a month.

According to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the Amritsar Declaration had first time expressed concern at the violence caused in Afghanistan and the region by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Daesh, LeT and JeM etc.

Incidentally, HOA’s Islamabad declaration last year had mentioned Al Qaeda and Daesh but did not talk about Lashkar-e Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

“We remain concerned by the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the region and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, terrorist groups including ISIL/ DAISH and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters.

“Acknowledging the support that terrorism derives in our region, we demand an immediate end to all forms of terrorism, as well as all support to it, including financing of terrorism. We recognize that terrorism is the biggest threat to peace, stability and cooperation in our region…

“We strongly call for concerted regional and international cooperation to ensure elimination of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, including dismantling of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in the Heart of Asia region, as well as disrupting all financial, tactical and logistical support for terrorism,” the Declaration said.